DEHESA… LOVE AT FIRST BITE

It’s been a while a restaurant’s made me sit up and pay attention. Or a restaurant I am scrambling to make some room on my calendar to return to; or one that I admittedly am reluctant to share in fear they would gain so much recognition, or worse, a Michelin Star, I’d have to stop going because of the crowd! But it would be unjust, to not give kudos to Chef Jean-Philippe for the amazing job he is doing at Dehesa. So here I am… doing justice 😊. We arrived at the restaurant decked out in soft lighting and dark wood. High stool seating occupies most of the main dining hall. The feel is relaxed and unpretentious yet quietly tasteful. We walk along an open kitchen lined on one side of the room where 2 chefs worked, towards our private dining room at the end of the revamped shophouse along North Canal Road. As much as I like to ogling at my food being prepared at the open kitchen, we settled in comfortably at our 6-seater private table which also overlooks the kitchen.. Perfect! Everything about Dehesa was on point, the ambience was cozy, service was attentive. The food? Oh boy, one look at the menu and I was sold! It features an atypical array of dishes which included heads and tails and hearts and soul!! We pondered over our order while lip syncing to the playlist which rebelliously befits the entire setup! An unorthodox mix from Blondie to Billy Idol, Nena and Devo!  This will be fun, I thought to myself!

Dinner begins…img_7179-1We started with Duck Hearts on Toast, a pile of plump spongy hearts sits on top a piece of toast drenched in a savory duck jus. The hearts were super succulent with a soft bouncy bite… flavored subtly in its own jus laced with a teeny hint of wine… nothing overwhelming.. just enough punch to highlight the precious organ. img_7181In the extreme rare occasion that I order a potato dish, this one I might just order again (and maybe even again!) Dehesa Bravas Potatoes came strongly recommended by Ethan, our server. All he said was “very popular and very nice”! What sorcery! Normally that wouldn’t move me but I must have been struck by the sincerity in his voice! Thank you, Ethan, as this is one spud I would order again in a heartbeat! Fried to a crackling crisp on the outside while retaining tenderly soft on the inside with shreds of potato in between. The texture is outstanding! Despite being deep fried, it didn’t reek nor taste of oil. The fluffy moist potato had just the right seasoning, spot on perfect, yet Chef decides a generous drizzle of garlic aioli plus a Sriracha-like chili sauce for the extra kick! A kick which changed the way I look at potato. Not an unnecessary carb no more! Have you ever had to chew on beef tribe for a whole 5 minutes, then end up spitting it out? It’s tough enough getting the tribe tender, and Chef’s going for crispy!? This I gotta try! Crispy Tribe turned out CRISPY AND TENDER!!! Saywhuuuut!?!? Yep! Just look at the photo and you can tell it’s crunchy! Yet it isn’t all cracker crunch without bite. There’s evidently some of that signature chew but nobody had to endure a jaw lock. The fragrant garlic and mild chili powder flavored each piece perfectly with just a tad of heat. Simply magnificent! CRISPY PIG’S HEAD!!! If you can’t tell, I am screaming those three words with awe, love and lust! Get outta here! There’s no chance in hell I would leave without getting this babe! (No pun intended 🐷!) When the dish arrived, it looked suspiciously like a tartare complete with a raw egg at the top. img_7194We halved it (hoping to create some egg porn) while holding our breaths in anticipation for what’s about to be revealed. The block of meat broke into an avalanche of chopped up meats, skins, ears and cheeks! It was not the most attractive sight (foodporn fail 🤦🏻‍♂️!)  But lo and behold! It was, instead, astronomically PHENOMENAL⚡️ Thing is, you can’t really tell what’s what as they’re all scrambled up. But the flavor was intense. Smoked? Braised? Baked? Fried? I can’t tell how it’s done exactly but the texture and taste is truly out of this world! There’s tenderness and bite in the same mouthful; followed by crunch (ears) then chew (diced ham), then mush (I’m thinking brains? No, no, no… no brain imports are allowed by our stringent government food laws!). And there’re slivers of tender meat (cheeks?) and hints of something gelatinous (I’m guessing fats? Or some might prefer the polite term, collagen 😉). The yolk binds everything together into a smooth slippery beautiful mess. Nothing goes to waste here. We can safely say all evidence of the pig head’s previous existence has been mutated into something totally  epic!img_7197Instead of halving the bone as with most other restaurants, Chef JP decided to cook and serve the Bone Marrow whole, and with a teaspoon! So now we’re going to work for our food! You should see us go at the precious collagenous marrow, making sure we shove the spoon deep, into every creek and crevice, then shaking the hollow bone for every last drop of that delicious au natural jus! img_7201Then we carefully pile that on the bread and top it with some of the accompanying parsley salad. A pinch of salt if you like but otherwise, it already is one explosive bite! I wondered if there’s any seasoning at all on the bone… the flavor was all beefy and rich. That clever touch of parsley really nailed it too… balancing the richness and cutting the oils.Dessert was Chocolat. I’d never have expected the amount of work put into this if we did not have that chat with Chef JP. There’s a whole lot more ingredients than the eye can see. And a whole lot of mixing, melting, drying, mincing, chilling, deconstructing, and reconstructing… and definitely a lot more than just chocolate! You gotta take a bit of everything in one mouthful to see how they all come together.  Such a lovely, lovely dessert! Any chocolate aficionado will approve! img_7788Finally, it’s not just another Apple Tart. This one had puréed apple instead of chunks or slices. It is sweet and spiced and well… everything nice! No ice cream? I frowned at the thought but the lightly whipped cream worked wonderfully with the sweetness of the apple… and ice cream could indeed have been an overkill.

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The Specials
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Our excellent wine, Matsu
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View from our private room… Chef JP and an assistant chef cooked up a storm in this compact kitchen.
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If you ever need a paella for 20 people!
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The soft spoken Chef Jean Philippe, a man of many cultures and amazing culinary skills.

So, as you can tell, I am totally stoked! We had such an enjoyable evening not just with the food but also with Chef JP, who sat and chatted with us about his work, his family, travels and experiences all over the world and how he’s found foot in Singapore. Aren’t we a lucky lot to have you on our little red dot! Dehesa, meaning “grasslands” has truly brought more green to our garden city and scored a special place in my heart! Like the wise prized Iberico hogs, I shall be grazing at Dehesa again real soon!

Dehesa @ 12 North Canal Road, Singapore 048825 Phone: +65 6221 7790

Disclaimer- This is not a sponsored post. 

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